Sunday, January 31, 2010

How the Book of Mormon Brings Men to Christ

Ezra Taft Benson:

"The purpose of the Book of Mormon is stated on the title page. It is “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.”

"The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ through two basic means. First, it tells in a plain manner of Christ and his gospel. It testifies of his divinity and of the necessity for a Redeemer and the need of our putting trust in him. It bears witness of the Fall and the Atonement and the first principles of the gospel, including our need of a broken heart and a contrite spirit and a spiritual rebirth. It proclaims we must endure to the end in righteousness and live the moral life of a Saint.

Second, the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12 below.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.

Now God expects us to use the Book of Mormon in several ways. We are to read it ourselves—carefully, prayerfully—and ponder as we read, as to whether this book is the work of God or of an unlearned youth. And then when we are finished reading the things in the book, Moroni exhorts us to put them to the test in these words:

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Moro. 10:4.) I have done as Moroni exhorts, and I can testify to you that this book is from God and so is verily true." Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, May 1975, 63

2 Nephi 3:12
12 Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ezra Taft Benson: "Being Christian"

“Men captained by Christ will be consumed in Christ. To paraphrase President HaroldB. Lee, they set fire in others because they are on fire. (See Stand Ye in Holy Places [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], p.192.)

“Their will is swallowed up in His will. (See John 5:30 .)

“They do always those things that please the Lord. (See John 8:29 .)

“Not only would they die for the Lord, but more important they want to live for Him.

“Enter their homes, and the pictures on their walls, the books on their shelves, the music in the air, their words and acts reveal them as Christians.

“They stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places. (See Mosiah 18:9 .)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1985, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6–7 ).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quote of the Day: Ezra Taft Benson


"Just as a man does not really desire food until he is hungry, so he does not desire the salvation of Christ until he knows why he needs Christ.

"No one adequately and properly knows why he needs Christ until he understands and accepts the doctrine of the Fall and its effect upon all mankind. And no other book in the world explains this vital doctrine nearly as well as the Book of Mormon" (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 106; or Ensign, May 1987, 85 ).

Some of the Book of Mormon scriptures that teach about the fall:

Alma 22:12-14

12 And it came to pass that when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scriptures unto the king—how God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen.
13 And Aaron did expound unto him the scriptures from the creation of Adam, laying the fall of man before him, and their carnal state and also the plan of redemption, which was prepared from the foundation of the world, through Christ, for all whosoever would believe on his name.
14 And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself; but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth; and that he breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.

Mosiah 3:19

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

2 Nephi 2:25

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quotes of the Day: Hugh Nibley

The following assignment was often given by Hugh Nibley to his students at Brigham Young University. I should add that Joseph Smith had only a grade school education.

"Since Joseph Smith was younger than most of you and not nearly so experienced or well-educated as any of you at the time he copyrighted the Book of Mormon, it should not be too much to ask you to hand in by the end of the semester (which will give you more time than he had) a paper of, say, five to six hundred pages in length. Call it a sacred book if you will, and give it the form of a history. Tell of a community of wandering Jews in ancient times; have all sorts of characters in your story, and involve them in all sorts of public and private vicissitudes; give them names--hundreds of them--pretending that they are real Hebrew and Egyptian names of circa 600 b.c.; be lavish with cultural and technical details--manners and customs, arts and industries, political and religious institutions, rites, and traditions, include long and complicated military and economic histories; have your narrative cover a thousand years without any large gaps; keep a number of interrelated local histories going at once; feel free to introduce religious controversy and philosophical discussion, but always in a plausible setting; observe the appropriate literary conventions and explain the derivation and transmission of your varied historical materials.

"Above all, do not ever contradict yourself! For now we come to the really hard part of this little assignment. You and I know that you are making this all up--we have our little joke--but just the same you are going to be required to have your paper published when you finish it, not as fiction or romance, but as a true history! After you have handed it in you may make no changes in it (in this class we always use the first edition of the Book of Mormon); what is more, you are to invite any and all scholars to read and criticize your work freely, explaining to them that it is a sacred book on a par with the Bible. If they seem over-skeptical, you might tell them that you translated the book from original records by the aid of the Urim and Thummim--they will love that! Further to allay their misgivings, you might tell them that the original manuscript was on golden plates, and that you got the plates from an angel. Now go to work and good luck!

"To date no student has carried out this assignment, which, of course, was not meant seriously. But why not? If anybody could write the Book of Mormon, as we have been so often assured, it is high time that somebody, some devoted and learned minister of the gospel, let us say, performed the invaluable public service of showing the world that it can be done." Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. 8, Ch. 11, pp. 221-2:

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Latter-Day Hymns: I Stand All Amazed

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Hymns, I Stand All Amazed, no. 193

1. I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

2. I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine,
That he should extend his great love unto such as I,
Sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify.

3. I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.

Text and music: Charles H. Gabriel, 1856–1932

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Quote of the Day: Jeffrey R. Holland

Jeffrey R. Holland

"Just believing, just having a molecule of faith - that simple step, when focused on the Lord Jesus Christ, has ever been and always will be the first principle of His eternal gospel, the first step out of despair." (From his book, "Broken Things to Mend")

Monday, January 18, 2010

Be Patient in Afflictions

Elaine Cannon

“When we are pushed, stung, defeated, embarrassed, hurt, rejected, tormented, forgotten—when we are in agony of spirit crying out ‘why me?’ we are in a position to learn something” (Adversity, 47).

Dallin H. Oaks

"Surely these great adversities are not without some eternal purpose or effect. They can turn our hearts to God." (Dallin H. Oaks, “Adversity,” Ensign, Jul 1998, 7)

John Bytheway

"Something wonderful happens when we really know, without a doubt, that God loves us—our questions completely change. Instead of asking, “Why did this happen to me?” or “Why doesn’t God care about me?” we say, “Well, I know God loves me; I know that. So what can I learn from this experience?”

"Sometimes we think our trials come because we did something wrong. That’s not always true. Adversity is simply part of earth life. From it we can grow and progress if we choose to. Yes, some trials come because of our own disobedience, but many trials are simply part of life." (John Bytheway, “Five Scriptures That Will Help You Get through Almost Anything,” New Era, Sep 2008, 26–31)

James E. Faust

"Let us not presume that because the way is at times difficult and challenging, our Heavenly Father is not mindful of us. ... May each of us follow the Lord's comforting counsel: 'Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days' ( D&C 24:8 )" ( "The Blessings of Adversity," Ensign, Feb. 1998, 7 ).

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Are Non-Believers Going to Hell?

Many people think that all that is required to be saved is to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior. They believe that those who do not accept Him, will go to hell. This, however, is not our view. There are many who never had the chance to learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We believe that God, the Eternal Father, is in reality, our Father; He is the literal father of our spirits. As such, He loves us, and wants salvation for us all. He prepared a plan whereby we might be saved. His son, Jesus Christ, volunteered to play the crucial part in this plan by being our Savior. But many people are born in to this world to situations that prevent them from hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Little children die before having a chance to be converted. Would it be fair to doom them all to hell when they never had a chance to hear the gospel and accept Jesus Christ as their Savior? Out of fairness to all, the plan of salvation was prepared by God to give the opportunity for everyone to be saved. Since God is truly our father, He surely wants salvation for every one of His children.. Peter taught, "... Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:" Acts 10:34. He loves us all, no matter to what situation we were born, and wants us all to be saved.

One of the important ways of helping others to gain salvation is the great work of taking the Gospel to all the world. Missionaries go to all nations that will allow. They teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ which includes the fundamental principles of the gospel: faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. But we also believe that this same missionary work is also carried out in the spirit world. There are many who have lived on this earth that did not have a chance to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ while in mortality. Christ Himself leads this great missionary work, as explained by Peter:

" For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water." 1 Peter 3:18-20

This scripture teaches that after Jesus died, He went to the world of spirits and preached to those who had died, including those who lived at the time of Noah. While it is more difficult to repent in the spirit world, it is still possible up until the time of the judgment. Otherwise, why would there be a need to preach to them in the spirit world. If their fate is sealed, why was there a need to continue proselyting in the hereafter? This scripture teaches that even those who had been disobedient in this life were given the opportunity to repent and accept the gospel of Jesus Christ in the hereafter

Faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance are only part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who accept Him as their Savior, must also enter in to a covenant with God by being baptized. In sacred temples, baptism for the dead by proxy is performed to allow those who have already died, the chance to make the covenant of baptism. Paul, in an effort to explain the reality of the resurrection asked, " Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?" 1 Cor. 15:29 The Saints of old practiced the
ordinance of baptism for the dead. They knew that baptism is essential for our salvation, and wanted this for their deceased loved ones.

But let's examine the idea that non-believers will go to hell. What is hell? Our belief about a "hell" is somewhat different from others' views. Some believe heaven to be an ultimate paradise, and hell as a burning pit. Our view is guided by this scripture: "There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory." 1 Cor. 15:40,41 And Jesus taught, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." John 14:2 Rather than a "all or nothing", heaven/hell view, these scriptures teach there are different levels of heaven. The highest is referred to in this scripture as the "Celestial kingdom". This is the heaven where God dwells. The middle heaven is the Terrestrial. The lower heaven is the Telestial. But even the lowest of these three heavens is a place of glory. There is another place prepared for the devil and his angels, and it is referred to in the scriptures as "outer darkness". It is often figuratively spoken of as a lake of fire and brimstone, but we believe this "burning" is more of an internal torment that one feels knowing they have been cut off from God, and that their eternal progression is damned.

When people speak of being saved, to what are they referring? We believe that all men will be resurrected, even the evil and wicked., so Jesus Christ has saved us all from death. But repentance through the atonement of Jesus Christ is what saves us from spiritual death. What is spiritual death? Spiritual death is being cut off from the presence of God. The prophet Alma taught, " Then if our hearts have been hardened, yea, if we have hardened our hearts against the word, insomuch that it has not been found in us, then will our state be awful, for then we shall be condemned. And now behold, I say unto you then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness. " Alma 12: 13,16 The apostle Paul also spoke of this spiritual death: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23 Some might think that the phrase "eternal life" means immortality. But clearly, in this scripture it means something more, because all of us will be resurrected. In John 17:3 we read, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." To be able to live in their presence, is what is referred to as eternal life. This is what some in the world think of as heaven. It is only through our faithfulness and repentance through the atonement of Jesus Christ that we can qualify ourselves for this salvation. Christ, Himself, set the terms. He commanded, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Mark 16:16. And, "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt. 4:17

Will non-believers go to hell? The question that should be asked is, will non-believers repent and accept the gospel when it is preached to them? Will those who already believe in Jesus Christ repent and accept the covenant of baptism?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Quote of the Day: Neal A. Maxwell

This quote speaks with reference to youth, but I think it's message can be applied to us all.

Neal A. Maxwell

"Why do some of our youth risk engaging in ritual prodigalism, intending to spend a season rebelling and acting out in Babylon and succumbing to that devilishly democratic 'everybody does it'? Crowds cannot make right what God has declared to be wrong. Though planning to return later, many such stragglers find that alcohol, drugs, and pornography will not let go easily. Babylon does not give exit permits gladly" (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 40; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 33 ).

Friday, January 8, 2010


If there is one statement that would describe our membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it would be: We are a covenant making people. Often in the Old Testament, the Lord refers to His "covenant people". The Index of the scriptures gave this definition, "A covenant is a sacred agreement between God and a person or group of people. God sets specific conditions, and He promises to bless us as we obey those conditions. When we choose not to keep covenants, we cannot receive the blessings, and in some instances we suffer a penalty as a consequence of our disobedience." The Bible dictionary gives this definition of "covenant". "Sometimes denotes an agreement between persons (1 Sam. 23: 18) or nations (1 Sam. 11: 1); more often between God and man; but in this latter case it is important to notice that the two parties to the agreement do not stand in the relation of independent and equal contractors. God in his good pleasure fixes the terms, which man accepts. The same word is sometimes rendered "testament."

The gospel is so arranged that principles and ordinances are received by covenant placing the recipient under strong obligation and responsibility to honor the commitment. Thus the severe consequences to Ananias and Sapphira, who deliberately broke their covenant and lied unto God (Acts 5: 1-11)."

Another example of a covenant is the one that God made with Abraham. God said, ""I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Gen. 12:3.) The children of Israel also made covenants with God. Today we too make sacred covenants with God.

One of the covenants that we make with God is the covenant of baptism. As part of this covenant, we take upon ourselves the name of Christ. In essence, we become "Christians", and promise to follow Him. We also promise to keep the commandments. In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma taught some other attitudes we should have about our baptismal covenant. To the people who had come to hear him teach he said,
" 8... Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?"

God promises us several things as His part of the covenant. One thing He promises is that when we repent of our sins, He will forgive us. He also promises that if we keep our part of the covenant, we will have the Holy Spirit to guide us. He promises that if we do these things, we will have eternal life. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught, ""Eternal life is not a name that has reference only to the unending duration of a future life; immortality is to live forever in the resurrected state, and by the grace of God all men will gain this unending continuance of life. But only those who obey the fulness of the gospel law will inherit eternal life. … It is 'the greatest of all the gifts of God … , for it is the kind, status, type, and quality of life that God himself enjoys. Thus those who gain eternal life receive exaltation; they are sons of God, joint-heirs with Christ, members of the Church of the Firstborn; they overcome all things, have all power, and receive the fulness of the Father" (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 237).
These blessings are available to all who enter the covenant, and keep their part of the agreement. This promise is so solemn that those who commit serious sins are excommunicated, or in other words, taken out from under the covenant until they repent.

In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, other covenants are available for those who meet the worthiness requirements. Other sacred covenants are entered in to in the temple of the Lord. Another important covenant is that associated with the Holy Melchizedek Priesthood. Those who take upon themselves the solemn responsibility of the Priesthood, enter in to a holy and sacred oath and covenant with the Lord.

The making of covenants helps us to gain many spiritual gifts in our life, and helps us to develop faith. Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught, "Divine covenants make strong Christians. I urge each one to qualify for and receive all the priesthood ordinances you can and then faithfully keep the promises you have made by covenant. In times of distress, let your covenants be paramount and let your obedience be exact. Then you can ask in faith, nothing wavering, according to your need, and God will answer. He will sustain you as you work and watch. In His own time and way He will stretch forth his hand to you, saying, "Here am I." .. . I testify that God will keep His promises to you as you honor your covenants with Him. He will bless you in "good measure, pressed down, … shaken together, and running over" (Luke 6:38). He will strengthen and finish your faith. He will, by His Holy Spirit, fill you with godly power. I pray that you will always have His Spirit to be with you to guide you and deliver you from want, anxiety, and distress. I pray that through your covenants, you may become a powerful instrument for good in the hands of Him who is our Lord and Redeemer." D. Todd Christofferson, "The Power of Covenants
I am thankful for the covenants I have made, and especially for the many blessings the Lord pours out upon me as I fulfill my part of the covenant.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fast Sunday

Throughout the church, we have a practice of observing a fast. This is typically done on the first Sunday of the month. This observance includes not eating or drinking anything for 2 meals, in a 24 hour period. Usually we begin our fast on Saturday night after our evening meal, and end our fast at dinner on Sunday night. During our fast we pray, and through this prayer and fasting we grow spiritually.

Another aspect to our "Fast Sunday" is a testimony meeting at church. We forgo the normal talks that are usually given, and members are given the opportunity during our Sacrament meeting to come to the pulpit and bear their testimonies. Through the bearing of testimonies, all are strengthened, both the one bearing testimony, and the listener.

An important part of our fast is the giving of "fast offerings". Members who participate in the fast contribute the cost of the meals they give up to the Church for distribution to those who are in need. This is usually done in the form of food from the Bishop's storehouse. Pres. Marion G. Romney wrote, "To ancient Israel the Lord put the question:

“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? …

“… to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him? …

“When thou hast done these things],” he added, “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.

“Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. …

“If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.” (Isa. 58:6–10.)

Think of these wonderful blessings. They are all promised to those who generously contribute to the care of the poor.

“And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” (Isa. 58:11.)

I remember that a long time ago, over sixty years in fact, when Elder Melvin J. Ballard (former member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) laid his hands on my head and set me apart to go on a mission, he said in the blessing he gave me that a person could not give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf of bread in return. And that has been my experience." Marion G. Romney, “The Blessing of the Fast,” Tambuli, Dec 1982, 2 By giving of our means to those in need, we are blessed spiritually.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, "We observe that in the scriptures, fasting almost always is linked with prayer. Without prayer, fasting is not complete fasting; it’s simply going hungry. If we want our fasting to be more than just going without eating, we must lift our hearts, our minds, and our voices in communion with our Heavenly Father. Fasting, coupled with mighty prayer, is powerful. It can fill our minds with the revelations of the Spirit. It can strengthen us against times of temptation." Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Law of the Fast,” Ensign, May 2001, 73

I invite you to attend one of our Fast Sunday testimony meetings. Each person bearing testimony speaks according to the feelings that are in them. The spirit is usually in abundance at these meetings. If you feel inclined, you may also want to fast in preparation for attendance. I feel confident that you also will feel the flowing of the spirit on this special day.

The Message: Washed Clean by Boyd K. Packer

Boyd K. Packer, “Washed Clean,” New Era, Apr 1998, 4

(From an address given in April 1997 general conference.)

Understanding the Atonement has immediate and very practical value in your everyday life.

My message is to our young people. We have great concern for young people who grow up without values on which to base their conduct. I have long believed that the study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than talking about behavior will improve behavior.

The study of behavior is greatly improved when linked to standards and to values. Practical values, useful in everyday life, are found in the scriptures and the doctrines they reveal. I will give you one example: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (A of F 1:3).

You should learn while you are young that while the Atonement of Christ applies to humanity in general, the influence of it is individual, very personal, and very useful. Even to you beginners, an understanding of the Atonement is of immediate and very practical value in everyday life.

More than 50 years ago during World War II, I had an experience. Our bomber crew had been trained at Langley Field, Virginia, to use the latest invention—radar. We were ordered to the West Coast and then on to the Pacific.

We were transported on a freight train with boxcars fitted with narrow bedsprings that could be pulled down from the wall at night. There were no dining cars. Instead, camp kitchens were set up in boxcars with dirt floors.

We were dressed in light-colored summer uniforms. The baggage car got sidetracked, so we had no change of clothing during the six-day trip. It was very hot crossing Texas and Arizona. Smoke and cinders from the engine made it very uncomfortable. There was no way to bathe or wash our uniforms. We rolled into Los Angeles one morning—a grubby-looking outfit—and were told to return to the train that evening.

We thought first of food. The 10 of us in our crew pooled our money and headed for the best restaurant we could find.

It was crowded, and so we joined a long line waiting to be seated. I was first, just behind some well-dressed women. Even without turning around, the stately woman in front of me soon became aware that we were there.

She turned and looked at us. Then she turned and looked me over from head to toe. There I stood in that sweaty, dirty, sooty, wrinkled uniform. She said in a tone of disgust, “My, what untidy men!” All eyes turned to us.

No doubt she wished we were not there; I shared her wish. I felt as dirty as I was, uncomfortable, and ashamed.

Later, when I began a serious study of the scriptures, I noticed references to being spiritually clean. One verse says, “Ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell” (Morm. 9:4).

I could understand that. I remembered how I felt that day in Los Angeles. I reasoned that to be spiritually unclean would bring shame and humiliation immeasurably more intense than I felt then. I found references—there are at least eight of them—which say that no unclean thing can enter the presence of God (see 1 Ne. 10:21; 1 Ne. 15:34; Alma 7:21; Alma 11:37; Alma 40:26; 3 Ne. 27:19; D&C 94:9; Moses 6:57). While I realized those references had little to do with dirty clothes or soiled hands, I decided I wanted to stay spiritually clean.

Incidentally, that day we went canoeing in Griffith Park. We were horsing around and, of course, tipped over. We got to shore all right, and in due time the sun dried us out. By the time we returned to the train, we were really quite presentable.

I learned that when I didn’t live as I ought to, getting myself spiritually clean was not as easy as taking a shower or putting on clean clothing or falling out of a canoe.

I learned about the great plan of happiness, that we are on earth to be tested. We will all make mistakes. The Apostle John taught, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Fortunately he added, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:8–9). I paid particular attention to that word cleanse.

I thought that repentance, like soap, should be used frequently. I found that when I apologized for mistakes, things were better. But for serious mistakes, an apology was not enough—sometimes not even possible. While these mistakes were, for the most part, not major ones, the spiritual pain called guilt invariably set in. Sooner or later they must be resolved, but I didn’t know what to do. That happens when you break something that you alone can’t fix.

Among you young people are those who are “vexed,” as Peter said, “with the filthy conversation of the wicked” (2 Pet. 2:7). Some of you joke about standards and see no need to change behavior. You tell yourselves it doesn’t matter because “everybody’s doing it.”

But that doesn’t work because you, by nature, are good. How many times have you heard someone say, after doing some generous or heroic deed or simply helping others, how good it made them feel? Like any natural feeling or emotion, that reaction is inborn in you. Surely you have experienced that yourself! Happiness is inseparably connected with decent, clean behavior.

The prophet Alma bluntly told his wayward son that because he transgressed he was “in a state contrary to the nature of happiness” and that “wickedness never was happiness” (Alma 41:10–11). Those who don’t know how to erase mistakes often feel cornered and rebellious and lose themselves in unworthy living. If you travel with transgressors, you will suffer much more than I did in that restaurant.

Most mistakes you can repair yourself, alone, through prayerful repentance. The more serious ones require help. Without help, you are like one who can’t or doesn’t wash or bathe or put on clean clothes. The path you need to follow is in the scriptures. Read them and your faith in Christ will grow. Listen to those who know the gospel.

You will learn about the Fall of man, about the purpose of life, about good and evil, about temptations and repentance, about how the Spirit works. Read what Alma said of his repentance: “I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more” (Alma 36:19).

Hear the Lord say, “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more” (D&C 58:42; see also Heb. 8:12; Heb. 10:17). Doctrine can change behavior quicker than talking about behavior will.

It was through reading the scriptures, and listening, that I could understand, at least in part, the power of the Atonement. Can you imagine how I felt when finally I could see that if I followed whatever conditions the Redeemer had set, I need never endure the agony of being spiritually unclean? Imagine the consoling, liberating, exalting feeling that will come to you when you see the reality of the Atonement and the practical everyday value of it to you individually.

You need not know everything before the power of the Atonement will work for you. Have faith in Christ; it begins to work the day you ask! The scripture speaks of “obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel” (A of F 1:3). We all pretty well know what it means to obey laws. But how are we to obey ordinances?

Generally we understand that, conditioned upon repentance, the ordinance of baptism washes our sins away. Some wonder if they were baptized too soon. If only they could be baptized now and have a clean start. But that is not necessary! Through the ordinance of the sacrament you renew the covenants made at baptism. When you meet all of the conditions of repentance, however difficult, you may be forgiven and your transgressions will trouble your mind no more.

President Joseph F. Smith was six years old when his father, Hyrum, was killed in Carthage Jail. Joseph crossed the plains with his widowed mother. At age 15 he was called on a mission to Hawaii. He felt lost and alone and said, “I was very much oppressed. … I was almost naked and entirely friendless, except the friendship of a poor, benighted … people. I felt as if I was so debased in my condition of poverty, lack of intelligence and knowledge, just a boy, that I hardly dared look [anyone] in the face.”

While pondering his plight, the young elder had a dream, “a literal thing; … a reality.” He dreamed he was on a journey rushing as fast as he possibly could.

He carried a small bundle. Finally he came to a wonderful mansion, his destination. As he approached, he saw a notice, “Bath.” He turned aside quickly, went in, and washed himself clean. He opened his little bundle and found clean, white clothing—“a thing,” he said, “I had not seen for a long time.” He put them on and rushed to the door of the mansion.

“I knocked,” he said, “and the door opened, and the man who stood there was the Prophet Joseph Smith. He looked at me a little reprovingly, and the first words he said [were]: ‘Joseph, you are late.’ … I took confidence and said:

“ ‘Yes, but I am clean—I am clean!’ ” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 541–42). And so it can be with you.

I say to you again that a knowledge of the principles and doctrines of the gospel will affect your behavior more than talking about behavior.

I have used the Atonement as one of many examples. In the gospel of Jesus Christ are values on which to build a happy life. I give you my testimony that our Father in Heaven lives. The Atonement of Christ can bless your life.

In the poem on the opposite page, I have tried to express my feelings in words, though no words are adequate to tell you what the Atonement means to me. I pray that each of you may be blessed with a desire to study it, to learn of it, and to understand more fully what it means to you.

In ancient times the cry “Unclean!”
Would warn of lepers near.
“Unclean! Unclean!” the words rang out;
Then all drew back in fear,

Lest by the touch of lepers’ hands
They, too, would lepers be.
There was no cure in ancient times,
Just hopeless agony.

No soap, no balm, no medicine
Could stay disease or pain.
There was no salve, no cleansing bath,
To make them well again.

But there was One, the record shows,
Whose touch could make them pure;
Could ease their awful suffering,
Their rotting flesh restore.

His coming long had been foretold.
Signs would precede His birth.
A Son of God to woman born,
With power to cleanse the earth.

The day He made ten lepers whole,
The day He made them clean,
Well symbolized His ministry
And what His life would mean.

However great that miracle,
This was not why He came.
He came to rescue every soul
From death, from sin, from shame.

For greater miracles, He said,
His servants yet would do,
To rescue every living soul,
Not just heal up the few.

Though we’re redeemed from mortal death,
We still can’t enter in
Unless we’re clean, cleansed every whit,
From every mortal sin.

What must be done to make us clean
We cannot do alone.
The law, to be a law, requires
A pure one must atone.

He taught that justice will be stayed
Till mercy’s claim be heard
If we repent and are baptized
And live by every word. …

If we could only understand
All we have heard and seen,
We’d know there is no greater gift
Than those two words—“Washed clean!”

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Book of Mormon Sampler: Alma 30:44

Alma 30:44
“All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator”

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mormon Messages: Look to the Light

What a great message of hope, that no matter what trials we are faced with, we can look to the Savior for help!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Can a Man See God?

As a young 14 year old boy, Joseph Smith wondered which church he should join. As he was reading in James, he read a passage of scripture that made a deep impression on his heart and mind. "5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." James 1:5 Joseph believed the promise of this scripture, and determined to ask God which church he should join. One spring morning he went to a grove of trees and prayed. In answer to his prayer, God the Father, and Jesus Christ appeared to him. Some have questioned this experience, saying that they didn't believe a man could look at God and still live. Can a man see God? Can a man see God and withstand His glory? Could Joseph Smith have seen God?

The Bible records a couple of different events in which people were allowed to see God. Jacob was allowed to see the face of God. "30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." Genesis 32:30 Moses also saw God face to face on Mount Sinai. "11 And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend..." Exodus 33:10

After translating the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, Joseph Smith went on to start a translation of the Bible. While translating the book of Genesis, Joseph received a revelation which today is known as the Book of Moses. In this account of Moses we get a more detailed account of his experience upon Mount Sinai.
"1 The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain,
2 And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.
10 And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.
11 But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him. " Moses 1:1,2,10,11
This account explains more fully how a person could withstand the glory of God, should they see Him face to face. It is only through the glory of God, that a person is able to withstand the glory of God. Moses, Jacob, Joseph Smith, and others were given this opportunity. The Bible teaches that in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall all things be established. Here are three that testify that God lives, for they have seen Him face to face.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Quote of the Day: John Taylor

John Taylor speaking of peace:

"Peace is the gift of God. Do you want peace? Go to God. Do you want peace in your families? ... If you do, live your religion, and the very peace of God will dwell and abide with you, for that is where peace comes from and it doesn’t dwell anywhere else." ( The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G.Homer Durham [1943], 340–41).

Book of Mormon Sampler: Alma 5:37-41

This is an interesting dialogue that was delivered, not to the world, but to the members of the church who were not living as they should:

Alma 5:37-41
37 O ye workers of iniquity; ye that are puffed up in the vain things of the world, ye that have professed to have known the ways of righteousness nevertheless have gone astray, as sheep having no shepherd, notwithstanding a shepherd hath called after you and is still calling after you, but ye will not hearken unto his voice!

38 Behold, I say unto you, that the good shepherd doth call you; yea, and in his own name he doth call you, which is the name of Christ; and if ye will not hearken unto the voice of the good shepherd, to the name by which ye are called, behold, ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd.

39 And now if ye are not the sheep of the good shepherd, of what fold are ye? Behold, I say unto you, that the devil is your shepherd, and ye are of his fold; and now, who can deny this? Behold, I say unto you, whosoever denieth this is a liar and a child of the devil.

40 For I say unto you that whatsoever is good cometh from God, and whatsoever is evil cometh from the devil.

41 Therefore, if a man bringeth forth good works he hearkeneth unto the voice of the good shepherd, and he doth follow him; but whosoever bringeth forth evil works, the same becometh a child of the devil, for he hearkeneth unto his voice, and doth follow him